Tuesday, July 11, 2017

MICHAEL HOLZMAN » Michigan’s Jim Crow Schools

Dropout Nation » Michigan’s Jim Crow Schools:


Mississippi and Michigan are the states in the country with the lowest percentage of African-American students reading at or above grade level in eighth grade.  Mississippi teaches just 8 percent of its Black students to read to national standards in middle school; Michigan teaches just 9 percent.  [The national average is for Black students is 15 percent.]
In both states, about half are functionally illiterate, tested at the “Below Basic” level by the National Assessment of Educational Progress. As the percentage of students reading at grade level changes little between 8th and 12th grades, it means that more than 90 percent of Black students in these states are unlikely to graduate from high school college- and career-ready.
It would, of course, be unjust to say that in the 21st century the goal of educators in Michigan and Mississippi is to so limit educational opportunities for Black students that 90 percent cannot read at grade level in middle school, that half are functionally illiterate, that nearly a fifth of Black adults in Michigan and a quarter of those in Mississippi have not finished high school. But what can we say about institutions, and those in responsible positions in those institutions, that year after year fail to meet their responsibilities 90 percent of the time?
Mississippi, the quintessential post-Confederate state, has the nation’s highest percentage of descendants of enslaved Africans: 37 percent.  In Michigan, far to the north, only 14 percent of the population is Black, although there are many more African-Americans in Michigan, 1.4 million, than in Mississippi—1.1 million. Mississippi did not repeal its constitutionally mandated restrictions on voting by means of poll taxes and literacy tests until 1975 nor the requirement for segregated schools until 1978 (a quarter century after Brown).  Michigan has never had a poll tax or a literacy test for the franchise, nor de jure segregated schools.
While the Black population of Mississippi is fairly evenly distributed about the state, although especially dense in the plantation counties along the Mississippi river, that of Michigan is highly concentrated in its southeastern corner, primarily the formerly industrial cities of Detroit, Flint and Saginaw, with a Brown University segregation index for the Detroit metropolitan area of 80, on a scale where 60 is considered very high.
Despite their similarities, there are major differences in the ways that the two states distribute, or, rather, restrict, educational opportunities. In Michigan, over half of Black families and one-third of White families have incomes low enough to qualify their children for free- or reduced-price school lunches; in Mississippi, over one-third of White families and over two-thirds of Black families have qualifying incomes (or qualifying lack of incomes). Both states educate very few of their children, of either race, from low-income families. Each brings just seven percent of their African-American children from low-income families to reading proficiency in eighth grade.  Mississippi manages this marginally better than Michigan for its White students from comparatively poor families: 25 percent to 23 percent.
The picture is quite different among students from more prosperous families.  Mississippi does much better than Michigan for those among them who are descendants of enslaved African, educating just over a quarter to reading proficiency in eighth grade, which we should note is more than either state does for its impoverished White students. Michigan only manages to bring 12 percent of its students from the upper half of the Black family income distribution to grade level in reading in middle school.  Nearly four times that percentage of middle class White children in Michigan learn to read proficiently in eighth grade.
One interpretation of these results would be that while educational opportunity in Dropout Nation » Michigan’s Jim Crow Schools:

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